A fish with 'teeth like human molars' caught in Lake Lou Yaeger on June 7 by a fisherman, has been identified as a pacu, a fish related to the piranha. The fish has caused big problems in Papua New Guinea, after castrating and killing two men.
According to KSDK News, the piranha may not be the only Pacu caught in Lake Yeager in Litchfield, Illinois. Another was rumored to have been netted about ten days ago.
The pacu, affectionately named the 'Ball Cutter' in Papua New Guinea, differs from its cousin in that piranha have pointed, razor-sharp teeth and an underbite. Pacu's however have squarer, straighter teeth, very similar to human molars and have either a less severe underbite, or a slight overbite.
Jim Cadwell, the lake superintendent, told KDKS news that he was initially alarmed at the fish's discovery. Full-grown pacu are much larger than piranha, and can reach up to 3-feet-long and weigh 55 pounds. After consulting with fish biologists at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Caldwell was relieved to learn that pacu typically only eat "nuts, snails, and vegetation."
Not so, say locals in Papua New Guinea, who blame the pacu for killing two men. The men died said the Metro, after they were allegedly "castrated by a fish while swimming in a river, causing them to bleed to death."
The deaths prompted British fisherman Jeremy Wade, to launch a search for the culprit as part of his show, River Monsters on Animal Planet. His investigation revealed the pacu as a likely suspect.
Pacu are often sold through aquariums as vegetation-eating fish. And although not as aggressive as their cousins, they can pack a nasty bite. In 2004, an 18-month-old toddler needed plastic surgery after being bitten on the finger by a pacu at Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World.
Pacu, also known to eat other fish, inhabit the rivers and streams in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of lowland Amazonia. They are believed to have been introduced to Papua New Guinea, to aid the local fishing industry. They have now also been introduced to Lake Lou Yaeger, by someone who will face criminal charges if caught.
Dumping exotic fish is illegal in the state and Illinois police are urging anyone with information to contact Litchfield police at 217-324-5991. Fish biologists however, appear less concerned about the 'ball cutter' aspect of the fish and more concerned about it contaminating existing fish stocks. Fortunately they said, any remaining pacu in the lake, are not expected to survive Illinois' harsh winter.